The superb German actress Nina Hoss casts a surprising spell in this subtly shaded story of love and intrigue set in an East German village a decade before the fall of the Wall.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2012
The superb German actress Nina Hoss casts a surprising spell in this subtly shaded love story set in an East German village a decade before the fall of the Wall. Barbara is a doctor dispatched from the city to a post in a tiny country hospital. What looks like a summer idyll is in fact a community as beset with paranoia and citizen surveillance as the East Berlin of The Lives of Others. Barbara is clipped, stand-offish and enigmatic as she fends off the friendly overtures of her new colleagues. The amiable curiosity of Andre, a handsome and cultured fellow doctor renders her especially chilly. Hoss daunts and intrigues us with Barbara’s elaborate protective coating then draws us behind the mask into a world of clandestine plans and secret hopes.
The twists of narrative intrigue in Christian Petzold’s original script and the shifting tone of his direction are attuned to the revelations in Hoss’ performance with rare formal mastery. The gradual progress from tension to relaxation makes watching this film a seductive, slow-burning pleasure. Barbara is the fifth in a series of arresting collaborations between director and actress (Yella, NZIFF08; Jerichow, NZIFF09). This is easily the most engaging of their films to date, suffused as it is with a powerful yearning to reach out and trust. — BG
“Despite the chill of its spy-film trappings, Barbara warms with the thawing relationship between the doctors, drawing on the rich Russian tradition of medical stories seen in Turgenev, Chekhov and Bulgakov that are so deft with resonant details. Its best asset, though, is Hoss, whose exact playing is a wonder.” — Nick James, The Guardian